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For my Catholic friends out there, I apologize if the following sounds sacrilegious - no disrespect meant to you or your worship system. Moving on:

I think the concept of saints is a good idea. They are embodiments of problems and solutions, and they give you someone to talk to about those problems if you have nobody. Personal deities covering multiple bailiwicks are a near-universal constant, from the ancient Romans to the Maori. I think we should have little secular saints, guardians, totems, whatever you want to call them. Embodiments of abilities we ourselves have, representatives of what's inside of us already, so we can call on them specifically when we need them. The secular part is mainly just so we don't kill people over whether or not someone else believes in them the same way we do. Plus, I think it should be personal, to a degree. Symbols will mean a great deal to one person and nothing to another. With that in mind, here is my tiny pantheon of secular saints.

I think I'd pester the saint of motivation a lot. For its embodiment, I'd choose Freddy Mercury, because his music gets me really pumped up (especially Don't Stop Me Now and I Want It All.) The saint of cleaning would be embodied by Elizabeth Bennett from Pride and Prejudice because I trained myself to clean the house while listening to that audiobook. The saint of *practice* motivation specifically would be embodied by that absolute ween of a guitar player who lives upstairs from me. When he/she starts twanging away and making my life sound like a Seinfeld show, I retaliate with MOZART. The saint of cooking is Remy the rat from Ratatouille, because *duh.* The saint of my household is Rubby the stuffed tiger because he has watched over every house I've ever lived in and he deserves the post. The saint of protection is whatever cat I'm living with, because when I'm alone I keep my eye on them to alert me to the presence intruders/ghosts/aliens. The saint of kindness and compassion is Mister Rogers, another obvious choice. I'll update the list as I think of more stuff.

Sooooooooooo

I was having a really crappy evening tonight. Adam is in Ireland on a company retreat (at a spa hotel in the Wicklow mountains, so BOOO) and my stomach was hurting, my old kidney trouble seemed to be back - I was basically mainlining old Scrubs episode and trying to pass the time until 11 o'clock came around and I could take my birth control before going to sleep. I remembered that I have a lesson coming up on Friday, and decided that I might as well kill time by practicing a little, ease my conscience a bit. You will never believe what happened.

Just earlier today, during lunch with the volunteer coordinator at the Phil, I was talking about my philosophy re grad school: that it's a lot of money and stress when I could just be developing my own sound and methodology. Two other notions have been percolating recently - the first is that no matter what I do, someone is going to think that their way of doing it is better, and at some point one reaches the level where one figures out their own way of doing that thing and sticks with it. The second is the thought that piccolo players have a much easier time of it practicing with earplugs in. I've found over the years that earplugs are awesome for cutting out white noises - fans, high pitches, etc. My major issues while playing are that I don't have much power or expressiveness, and I realize that a lot of that has to do with being scared, not just of how I sound, but also of how painful the higher notes can be for me. As you may recall, I have one very active ear and one rather inactive one, and the overactive ear just hates everything above high D.

That's a very roundabout way of explaining why I decided to practice with earplugs in. I've been craving a group to perform with lately, so my methadone-like remedy was to download accompaniment tracks off of the internet. I tried playing along with the headphones in, then remembered that stuff about piccolo playing. I kept the headphones in, but didn't play the accompaniment track. Everything was muffled, but hearable, and I found myself trying to shape phrases despite the buffer. When I took the headphones out and played the same passages again, I ... I don't even know how to describe it. A sound started coming out of me that I *never* thought I would hear. It was strong, it was clear, it was *shapely.* Old habits and fears kicked in about thirty or so seconds after playing with the headphones out, but I was able to duplicate the effect again and again. I couldn't stop - it was like discovering an incredible magic trick. For the first time in many years, the only reason I stopped practicing was because it was 10pm and that's the cut-off for noise disturbances in my building.

I realize that I might just be hearing my same old sound with new ears, but I don't actually care. All I care about is that I heard my own sound and didn't hate it. Old tired pieces sounded new, and my flute was bending to my will as opposed to the way it's always felt, namely, the other way around. It makes me feel giddy and manic - I was struggling to stay awake before, but now I'm wide awake and thrilled. I don't think I've found the magic bullet to all my playing problems, but in a way, I sort of *do* think that. I've been scared of my own playing all this time, and if I don't hear all the bits of air and clicky keys and rasping high pitches, the fear is just gone. My accuracy between registers actually *improved* with the headphones in. It made me think that maybe I've just been on sensory overload all this time while I've been playing, and now that I'm not, the floodgates can finally open.

Odds are I'll get disillusioned and frustrated again. That's why I'll treasure this time, however long it lasts.

I'm actually still not doing well physically, despite the endorphins - nothing urgent, I'm just really uncomfortable. Furthermore, I'm *bored* with this type of uncomfortable, tired of feeling it again and again. I hope it'll be better in the morning, and in the meantime I'm drinking tons of water and hitting the Tylenol. I'm trying to bear in mind what Adam would do if he were here. The place is big and boring and slightly scary without him, and the the temptation is to get complacent, eat like crap, and ignore any mess or physical problems. I'll crank up the willpower.

Oh, and another victory: I think I may have conquered the spider thing. I think writing about it actually helped. Adam and I were taking a nap in our hotel room during our visit to Connecticut this last weekend - more on that in a bit - and, half-awake, I spotted a huge red-and-white spider crawling on Adam's hand. I almost panicked, and then a part of me remembered 'wait, we've been through this before.' I sat up and leaned in close to his hand, watching the spider intently with the resolution of swatting it if it didn't disappear. Three seconds later, it faded away like a watercolor effect, becoming a smudge of red before disappearing altogether. I remember remarking 'oh, cool' and then going back to sleep.

Connecticut was lots of fun, a delightful weekend with really good company. Adam was a marvelous travel companion and date, and I liked getting to make the rounds with friends and family. First we had lunch with Adam's folks at their favorite pizza joint in Adam's hometown, then we checked into our shockingly huge jacuzzi suite (for absurdly cheap, I love how far money goes outside the city) and napped, then we had a decadent and stylish dinner with our longtime friends Katie and Chris at Bar Americain, the Bobby Flay restaurant in the Mohegan Sun casino. Adam was a champ about being supportive while we navigated a truly nightmarish parking situation - it was a concert night, and we ended up having to park so far away that there were shuttles involved. The awesome dinner helped too, awesome both in terms of food and company. Chris and Katie are fantastic conversationalists and we had a lot of catching-up to do. We got huge wads of cake at Gino's for dessert, and we finished off the evening with a nice long soak in the jacuzzi. The next day we slept in, then had lunch with Rick at my favorite sushi place. He told this gut-bustingly hilarious story that I'll have to try to duplicate here sometime. It's on Reddit somewhere, too. I also got to visit my favorite Connecticut Goodwill and I got a nice Banana Republic blouse, a sparkly going-out tank, and a daring dress.

The only downside to the weekend was having to say goodbye to Adam on his way to Ireland. It's never easy for me, even if it's just for a few days. I'm not ashamed of admitting it: I love my partner of nearly ten years so much that saying goodbye for a few days is difficult. I like being into my guy after so much time together. Bless my friends, they're rallying to help me fill the time a bit. Jared called me up last night and kept me company for three hours, talking about everything. I'm going to a concert tomorrow night with a colleague from the Phil, followed by an outing with Britney, and I'll be helping Sarah to catch up on season two of Sherlock on Wednesday. It's weird and awesome that I have New York friends now.

Now to re-trace the comic rough that I accidentally traced in gray instead of black. Carin for the win.
Woke up screaming my fool head off today for the second time since coming home. It's starting to get to the point where I worry that I'm going to get the police called on me. As has become the usual, it was a spider hallucination. This time, it was about the size of a dinner plate and hanging a foot or so from my face on a web strand. Last time, it was dog-sized and climbing up the side of my dresser. I think these spiders are somewhat related to the night terrors I had in high school, but it was just a piece of black fluff then - I'd trade 'inexplicably horrifying' for 'actually horrifying' any day. I've done some reading, and spiders are the most common hypnopompic hallucination. There's a story in there, I'm sure.

Almost certainly related: due to events I don't particularly care to recount, I've sworn never to ride the MTA subway system ever again. I'm sure I'll go back on that almost immediately, but at least *today* I will never ride the MTA subway system ever again.

I feel *so* weird in the head. Hate it.

Cats

I never know how to start when I'm writing about a loss, so I'll just dive in: PK was put to sleep last week. It turns out that it wasn't herpes. He had a tumor behind his eye, and though he rallied for a little while, he got really sick towards the end. He's been living with Dad and Scottie for the last nearly-decade, and they called the vet to the apartment so he could pass away in the comfort of his own home.

That was his death. His life with us started when he was brought home in a carrier with his sister. My classmate Andy's cat had a litter of kittens and it had been a year since our dear cat Buster had died. Mom and Dad went to 'just take a look,' and when they pulled back into the driveway all three of us kids ran to the window. "They have a carrier!" "Oh my gosh, I think I see two." "Are there TWO?!" Collective freaking out ensued. We'd only ever had one cat before, and Buster was four when Caitlin was born, so we'd never had kittens. The two tabbies tumbled out of the carrier and nosed around the living room, one grey and slender and one pale orange and round. Pink noses and mouths! Fluffy fur! Big round eyes! They batted at each other playfully from time to time, and when they wore themselves out exploring they cuddled up together in a wicker basket by the fireplace. We just watched them breathing. They were so precious and new. The decision to name them Smokey and Pumpkin came from a book we had loved as young children where some kids find two kittens, orange and grey.

PK was always the easy-going one of the two. He groomed himself lazily and haphazardly, and even though they spatted from time to time, Smokey would always take over grooming him because he was so bad at it. He preferred to cuddle and nap, and even his hunting style was lazy; they were outdoor cats for a while, and we would see him laying on the grass without realizing (until later) that he was squashing chipmunks and baby rabbits under his bulk. They were both vocal, having some Siamese in their blood, and they perfected the rusty pathetic feed-me meow, the let-me-in meow, the 'mack'ing for attention. PK was especially good at the hoarse pitiful bawling, and that combined with our soft hearts and his sloth kept him round for most of his life. Never so round that he couldn't get around, but pleasantly and luxuriantly plump.

They were bursting with personality from the start. The running joke was that PK was a total queen. He loved carrying scrunchies and doll dresses around as though they were kittens, placing them gently by his bowls when he ate or drank. His favorite color was pink, and when he was upset about something, he threw up on expensive, hard-to-clean stuff. He was a discerning eater, his favorite non-dry foods being strawberry yogurt and vaseline (<-- not a typo.) He would spend long, luxurious hours licking away at his phallic catnip cigar. Total queen. Even his fur color was delicate, almost more pink than orange. Adam told me that he'd never seen a cat that color before, and we called him my Champagne Kitty. I loved him for it.

One of my most peaceful memories features him. I was at home alone in the house on 44th street - I think I was either sixteen or seventeen - and I was spread out on a couch by the window reading a book. He settled himself onto my chest (directly in front of the book) and started purring. I noticed that it was snowing outside, the flakes huge and soft, and as PK fell asleep on me and his purring turned to quiet sleepy breathing, I stroked him and just watched the snow. I think we passed two or three hours that way. Another vivid memory is when he had to go on antibiotics to combat some infection or other, and they made him drooly as a side-effect. The rest of the family was mildly grossed-out, but I kept him with me in a towel-lined laundry basket and wiped his chin when he needed it. I wanted to help him feel dignified and loved.

I didn't live with Pumpkin for the last eight years of his life, though I got to see him once or twice a year. Every time, he knew me. He lived with Dad and Scottie in comfort that befit his queenly status. They arranged the apartment around him, an entire claret-colored divan devoted to his lounging needs alone. He deserved it. He deserved all the love and attention they showered on him. He lived out his years, adored.

I think we really need a more Egyptian approach to the passing of our pets. They become family, but they're something more as well - household totems, guardians of the decades in which they live. David Sedaris said: "[t]he cat's death struck me as the end of an era. It was, of course, the end of her era, but with the death of a pet, there's always that urge to crowd the parentheses and string black crepe over an entire 10- or 20-year period. The end of my safe college life, the last of my 30-inch waist, my faltering relationship with my first real boyfriend. I cried for it all and spent the next several months wondering why so few songs were written about cats." We need to mourn this loss, physical, emotional, and symbolical, but society at large doesn't look kindly on that sort of thing. Americans are routinely mocked for our propensity to treat our pets like children.

Screw that. Pumpkin was my steadfast, quiet friend, my confidante and comfort. He deserves to be remembered and mourned.

His sister survives him, despite a chronic kidney infection. It's not acute, but there's no telling what kind of time she has. I don't really want to know, actually. I want to believe that she has years, still, and I read up on stories of cats who have lived to be 23, 25. As distinct a niche as Pumpkin carved for himself, she has carved one just as singular. If she and PK could live on willpower alone, they would be immortal.
So, get this. I am out of Wellbutrin after a few month's worth of traveling. I made an appointment to see my usual meds guy at what appeared to be a new practice *much* closer to me than the one out in Queens that takes an hour of subway riding to get there. Closer Practice calls and tells me that Closer Practice is for uninsured and brand new patients only. Was this information on the site? Absolutely not. I got rescheduled at the Queens practice. Okay, fine. Rolling with it.

I show up today a few minutes before my 10am appointment, like the accommodating patient that I am. The door's locked. Five minutes before my appointment, someone else who practices in that office opens the door and lets me in. Five minutes *after* my appointment was supposed to have started, the doctor's assistant shows up. I ask if I'm still scheduled, and she snaps at me that the doctor's running late. She mumbles something I don't hear, and when I ask her to say it again, she over-enunciates "I'm SORR-EE" like I am a complete moron. I sit back down, not particularly appreciating being snapped at because someone *else* was late, but again, rolling with it.

I cease rolling with it at the fifteen-minute mark. I get late trains, I get missed alarms. I also get that I had to wake up and get here as well, and that if I could do it, so could the person I am *paying.* Only when the doctor walks in the door, twenty minutes late, does the assistant start processing my insurance and taking my co-pay. Finally, nearly a half-hour after my ten-minute appointment was supposed to start, do I get to walk in and sit myself down on the couch.

It gets much, much better. After I explain my curtness by saying briefly that I don't appreciate being kept waiting, the doctor agrees to refill my prescription, but only for a month. When I ask him why, he says that my reaction to him being late has him concerned and he wants to continue to monitor me. I know I'm hardly the one to be objective here, but in front of the all-seeing eyes of the internet I attest that the extent of my reaction was to be polite but curt, to say "I don't appreciate being kept waiting," and to *not smile.* How DARE I. Did I yell, or even raise my voice? No. Did I fling insults, implied or otherwise? No. Did I make threatening gestures, or even move? No. Did I do anything at all to indicate that I was anything more than frustrated at having my time wasted? No. All I did - I'll repeat this for emphasis - was not smile.

I asked him why he thought I was being disproportionate, and he said that most people move on. I asked him if he wanted me to be cheerful right away, and he said no. He even said that he gets furious when people disregard his time when he makes appointments. I didn't even get furious by any stretch of the imagination - I just wasn't *nice.* So, to sum up, he's essentially keeping me hostage via my medications because I didn't brighten up instantly after a snapped apology from his assistant and a mumbled one (without any explanation to go with it, by the way) from him while he was staring at his computer screen. This, this right here, is why I hate going to the doctor. You place your trust in someone whose job it is to help you, and when *they* make mistakes and you try to hold them accountable - for a PAID SERVICE, I'm going to reiterate - they tighten your leash. The nerve and entitlement are beyond unbelievable.

I can't believe I'm being forced to pay for a reaction HE HIMSELF told me he has.

Home

I woke up today in my own bed for the first time since February 2nd. My own little cobalt kitty is sleeping on the bench by the window. The fridge holds cheese from Amsterdam, chocolates from Paris, cider from Dublin, scrumpy from Wellington, and all of my favorite foods. My suitcase, still unopened on the couch, has sea glass and Hobbiton souvenirs from New Zealand, honey from Ireland, and resale finds from both Chicago and Des Moines. My clothes are covered in the fur of six different cats: Pumpkin, Sir Tweakerton, Tango, Mercedes, Bailey, and Delta, the cheetah from the Wellington zoo. When I got home, Adam had my favorite bath products from Lush waiting for me, as well as a huge pile of mail and the newest issues of some awesome graphic novels. My wonderful friends and cat-sitters Britney and Arielle left us a bottle of my number one favorite champagne of all time, Veuve Clicquot. I still have the braids my mother put in my hair, and my jeans have a tiny rip on the thigh from helping my dad set up for his new musical. My phone and my camera are full of pictures, the sole has worn off of my boots, and I know what a Kaori forest smells like.

Holy shit.

I've been writing to my family in lieu of keeping this thang updated, so I'll put down some favorite excerpts from my New Zealand letters, my thoughts (in post) on Ireland, and a recounting of the time I spent with family in the Midwest during the latter half of March. First, though, I'll start with the port of departure:

San FranciscoCollapse )

New ZealandCollapse )

IrelandCollapse )

ChicagoCollapse )

Des MoinesCollapse )

I want to capture the experience of coming home quickly, before it fades into the realm of taken-for-granted. I'd been telling people about the apartment for two months, describing its awesome location as well as its comical smallness. I think I'd actually made it narrower in my head, because when I came in the door, the first thing out of my mouth was "hey, it's big in here!" It actually felt very airy and spacious, despite the fact that I've spent the last two months in spaces much wider, if not longer, than my apartment. Seriously, even in the hostels in New Zealand, you could walk all the way around the bed. Still, it was great to see my cat, my stuff, my *husband.* I missed him fiercely while we were traveling separately. He was incredible about keeping in touch and being affectionate, things that had been difficult for him in the past. He IMed with me and talked with me on the phone, listened sympathetically to my insecurities, and sent me letters when he could. It was an admirable effort, and it paid off: I feel like a well-cared-for plant, watered and sunned.

And I think that concludes my longest entry yet! I'm all caught up, though I'm sure that things I've forgotten will rise to the surface from time to time. I'm sacked out for the day to recover, and tomorrow I attend my first NYPhil Volunteer event. Wish me luck! I'm back in NYC, baby!
I am sicker than sick. I am ... the sickest.

I'll start off by saying that I haven't had the flu since I was a very small child. I actually had no idea why I felt so badly until I confirmed it with Mom. According to her, I'll feel horrible for a week, then semi-horrible for another week. I'm on day 3 (I think) of horrible. Adam got the flu jab like a smart, hubris-free person, so he's not showing any symptoms yet.

Right before I picked up the flu, I had to go to urgent care for the return of the kidney stuff. THREE WEEKS after having been treated before. That's just several different kinds of wrong, I'm sorry. I completed my medication faithfully and got less than a month of reprieve in return.

Between the flu, the kidney problems, and having been laid up with terrible muscle pain on Sunday after having spent a mere four hours tearing up a basement floor, I feel like the Glass Woman. Everything is going wrong with me. It's got to stop.
I'd like to lead today's entry with this: Adam got THE COOLEST SUIT TODAY. I remember being there for his first suit fitting when I was twenty and he was twenty-three. He was getting ready for a job interview and didn't have a proper suit, so we went down to Men's Wearhouse and outfitted him with one. He liked the sight of himself in a suit, but he couldn't afford much, and definitely didn't want to spring for tailoring. It sort of hung off of him, and as he's broad-shouldered with a narrow waist it hid most of his form. A few weeks ago we saw an ad on Groupon for House of Bespoke suits, and after looking up what 'bespoke' means (made custom for you,) he decided to take a crack at it. He figured that one new suit every eight years was justifiable.

We took painstaking measurements, submitted them plus fabric choices to the website, and waited. He got the suit today. The fabric is subtle pinstriped black-on-black, and it looks and feels luxurious without seeming too flashy. Adam's unusually tall, and for the first time in his life, every piece of the suit fits without clinging or bagging in one spot or another. It's not too tight, it's not too loose ... I love it. I have never seen him looking that sharp. The suit comes with a vest, which has been his favorite fashion item ever since Inception. He stretched and flexed with wonderment, saying "I can actually MOVE in this thing!" We almost never spend any significant amount of money on clothing, but just this once - worth it.

The suit was in a trio of packages that were waiting for us when we came home. The biggest of the packages was for me (I LOVE it when that happens) and it contained my sister's Christmas present: a lovely vintage wooden portable tool-chest. It'll be so helpful sorting repair stuff, and I just love having lots of little drawers to fill up with things. It is awesome. The other package was also for me, because Adam wasn't interested in any of the products his company was giving out for Christmas. He let me pick between a chromebook, a tablet, and a phone, and I chose the tablet. It's sitting on the dining room table right now and chirping at me, and - as I do with all new technology - I am circling it suspiciously. I'll warm up to it eventually, it's just a process. And it'll be neat to have all those cool string orchestra and synth apps that my brother has on his tablet.

I've started up IHE again, and while I struggled yesterday to come up with one single stinking idea, I got Wednesday's strip done early today, and I have *eleven more ideas* on the board all planned out by panel. That's the single hardest part, I think, though now that I'm doing them on the computer, my old artistic challenges are replaced with new ones. I wish I could call on these art binges when I want them, but they seem to just happen. I'm just glad I've got somewhere to write the ideas down this time. Sometimes they come to me when I'm in the middle of something else or walking somewhere, and they evaporate by the time I get pencil and paper.

The book has been out for about a month now, and has only sold one copy. I know I didn't get into this for riches, but it's disappointing, especially when I had multiple people telling me they would get one. It's a five-dollar e-book, and I thought more people would be willing to forego a latte to read what I've written. It's a bit of an ego blow. My sister pointed out that I've not really marketed myself very much, and she has a point. To my mind, though, I've told all 300-odd people I know about it, and one person has taken me up on it. Bleh. She's said I should bus it around to popular bloggers and see if they'll advertise it. It's worth a shot, I suppose, though popular blogs usually only *sell* advertising space. I hate pestering people, but the question then becomes whether I hate pestering people more than I hate not having anyone buy my book.

It has been really weird coming back from Florida after a month away. We've had some two-week trips since moving to the city, but never one this long. My friend and former studio-mate Britney and her twin Arielle watched over Maddy and the apartment over the last two weeks, and they'll be returning when we leave for California at the beginning of February. When we first got back, it really was like walking into someone else's apartment. All my stuff was there, but it smelled different and things were arranged differently, there was different food in the refrigerator, etc etc. Maddy warmed back up to us after about ten hours of sulking. She really liked Britney and Arielle.

Britney's been hanging out with us a bit, and it's really neat to have a friend in the city. I've missed having someone to just hang out with, rather than playing the tourism host (which is fun in its own way, but not all the time.) Therefore, it sucked especially to have to give her bad news. I'd promised her a free stay in my apartment for the months of February and March after Adam and I had agreed to it back in November. He'd gotten the impression that it was okay by his bosses, but as the time's drawn nearer, they've been altering the deal. Apparently people are traveling away from the offices too much, and Adam's having to pay for it. They told him that it wasn't okay for him to be away from his team for more than a month (originally we were going to spend Feb and March in California at the Mountain View office) so Adam compromised and said he'd spend March with the other half of the SRE team in Dublin. Then they said that he could only be away from the team for two weeks, and he'd have to do two weeks in Mountain View and two weeks in Dublin, then come home. That cut Britney out for the month of March entirely, and I am fiercely protective of the promises I make. Adam's talking with his bosses now and pointing out that he's not going to any travel at all from April through at least August, so that might help, but I'm not optimistic. I hate standing on the outside of this and having it so that the only thing I can do to influence my situation is cross my fingers. I've been good about making sure that Adam knows I'm not upset at him, so there hasn't been any in-fighting at least. Stressful. I wanted to go to California to get *away* from the stress.

I saw Dr. G, my meds-doctor, yesterday. He confirmed my suspicion that what I had was actually a kidney infection, not kidney stones. I'll still need to find a new primary care doctor to seal the deal, but I'm still confident enough to be relieved. Funny enough, the episode of Modern Family that I found on the plane trip back was the one where Phil got kidney stones. The dialogue is hysterical, and it goes like this (Phil is the father, Claire is his wife, Alex, Luke, and Haley are his kids):

Phil: AOW, that's bad!
Claire: Oh, honey!
Phil: I'm fine, no, I'm fine, I'm just OKAY THAT'S CANCERRR
Claire: Maybe it's just a kidney stone.
Phil: JUST, Claire?!
Alex: What's going on, guys?
Phil: It's nothing, go back to bed.
Haley: But dad -
Phil: DON'T TOUCH ME!
Claire: I bet it's just a kidney stone.
Phil: JUST! Again! Someone get your mom a glass of water and a piece of gravel from the driveway and see how SHE likes it!
Luke: Why's everybody yelling?
Alex: Something's wrong with Dad.
Phil: Don't frighten him, c'mere OHHH THERE'S GONNA BE DEATH, DEATH IS COMING
Haley: You *need* to go to the hospital.
Alex: Yeah.
Phil: No no no, I just need a pill. Gimme the biggest one you can find.
Claire: Honey ... breathe. Just - just breathe.
Phil: That's what I told you when you were in labor, and you threw my smoothie at me PILLL
Haley: I'm calling.
Phil: NO NO it's fine, it's actually, it's fine. It's passing, it's passing. I'm sorry to alarm everyone. I think I was probably just overreacting because there IS AN ALIEN INSIDE OF MEEE

I want to be able to write dialogue that awesome one day. Modern Family rules.

Jan. 12th, 2013

Well, I'm back from the cruise. It's my first in over a decade, and Adam's first ever. If he wrote a book about it, it would be called Adam's First Cruise: Sun, Books, and Food! If I were to write a book about it, it would be called Carin and the Terrible Horrible No-Good Very Bad Cruise. I found myself laughing while recounting the details to my parents on the way back, so apparently it's already funny, but at the time it was an absolute nightmare. Looking back, I'm amazed and thankful that Adam and I had such disparate experiences. Some of it can be chalked up to self-fulfilling prophecy, but the rest was dumb luck (or complete lack thereof.)

To cut to the chase, I might have gotten kidney stones. That was the diagnosis from the shipboard doctor, plus a secondary bladder infection. Having no access to literature the subject I had to take his word for it, and there was certainly a great deal of kidney pain, but in post I suspect that it was a chicken-and-egg scenario in that the kidney trouble was caused by the infection. I never saw any stones, no matter how small. Despite access to every alarmist article Google can summon, though, I am not a doctor, so I won't know what really happened to me until I see my primary care doctor back in NYC (I'm still in Venice at the moment.) What I know is this: I felt a powerful, dull pain for hours-long stretches in the right side of my back. I had all sorts of spectacular digestive problems. I would fall asleep multiple times during the day, and then wake up multiple times at night. I had the symptoms of a UTI, the headaches were astounding, and at one point, I could not stop shaking.

This while I was on a CRUISE.

With the kidney stone diagnosis, the shipboard doctors IVed me up, put me on four different drugs, and had me drinking tons of water and cranberry juice. I don't have the kidney pain anymore, so whatever they did worked, but I'd still like to know what on earth happened so I know how to proceed from here. If it was kidney stones, it means that my chance of getting more in the future is about 70%. Which, no, a world of no, I never want to feel like that ever again. I'm a 28-year-old woman, my dietary habits aren't all that weird, and while I eat more salt and drink less water than I should, the odds are still tremendously low that this would happen to me.

ON A CRUISE.

Or anytime, really. Plus, I have no family history of it. I don't know. I'm frustrated, and I still have the headaches. I suppose it's an improvement over writhing, hyperventilating, and mumbling incoherently.

I'm so tired that I don't care how much I may or may not have just grossed out my readers.

As far as the rest of the trip, I kept trying to rally after each blow, but at the end I just stayed down. Everything on board except the food had some sort of cost attached to it, which, I'm sorry, but if your cruise is advertised as all-inclusive, INCLUDE EVERYTHING. I had to cancel snorkeling in Cozumel because of whatever went wrong with me, and then the tour we bought to replace it in Key West was canceled due to inclement weather. I didn't want to drink, buy stuff, or dance, nor did I much feel like elbowing through the sodden crowds to see the cheesy on-board entertainment. The areas of Cozumel that weren't filled with aggressive vendors and performers dressed up like Mayans were tremendously economically depressed and covered in trash. Key West was sweet, but having had the one thing I wanted to do on this trip canceled that morning, it was sort of poor consolation. Did I get all my bad vacation experiences out of the way for 2013? Will all my vacations be awesome now? PLEASE?

Adam, by contrast, had a good time. He got to read in the sun, work out on their track and in their weight room, meet new people, and take long walks. He also spent way too much time looking after me, which made me feel horribly guilty. So much so, actually, that the uncontrollable shaking episode happened after I'd sent him out of the cabin to have fun, and even though I was worried about what was happening to me, I refused to call guest services or the infirmary to alert him. I may not have been entirely logical at the time. I admire his fortitude and positivity, I really do. I suppose the next step is trying to emulate him.

That's what I've got for now. Now we get to figure out the logistics of getting back to Tampa to catch our flight, then what on earth we're doing for February and March. Help.

Jan. 3rd, 2013

Given that I want to apply for writing and blogging jobs, I guess it wouldn't hurt to do some practice topical articles - quick one-offs on subjects I'm familiar with. Picking the subjects should be interesting, though. Let's see ...

On Frugality:
- How to avoid making stupid choices when you're poor
- How to travel on a laughably small budget
- How to make a week's worth of meals for two people for $40
  - Pantry essentials
- Budgetary trade-offs: what's worth spending money on and what ain't

On Being a Student:
- The dos and don'ts of arguing with your teacher
- The actual secrets of career success, aka, it's a lot like blackjack (having the resume, luck, and knowing people)
- Picking a major
- How to prepare for actual adulthood while still in college (aka, Adulthood Lite)
- You are an idiot until you turn 25 - how to enjoy it while it lasts and avoid screwing over your future self (sub-headings: how to have some great stories to tell later without getting arrested, the pitfalls of absolute statements, why you are an idiot right now, doing favors for future you)

On Relationships
- You will never meet a rich gainfully-employed gorgeous sensitive funny sex-god/dess genius, so please stop trying
- Are you good at fighting? A test to figure out if you are, and techniques to avoid it if you're not
- They cannot read your mind / there is no shame in asking for what you want
- Actual relationships are way more fun than rom-com relationships
- The Guide to Your Partner - a fill-in-the-blank guide to what your partner likes

Miscellaneous
- So what if you "can't draw," draw anyway
- The definitive performer's guide to not fainting onstage
- Weight loss is simple, but it isn't easy: a sane person's guide to calorie counting

That's what I've got in my head so far. Some of these actually sound pretty fun to write.

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